Dr Kayode Ajulo is a constitutional lawyer and coordinator of Progressive Lawyers for Osinbajo, a group rooting for the presidency of the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
In this interview with FRIDAY OLOKOR, he speaks on the Vice-President’s actions as Acting President, among other issues
Can you allay the fears of those who say the Vice-President will be an RCCG (Redeemed Christian Church of God) President?
In the noble words of Bernard Kerik, “Political criticism is the best friend of an enemy.” It is, therefore, clear beyond peradventure that such postulations are made by those who tend to find solace in dispraising the Vice-President.
In Nigeria, two major political currencies exist, expendable as it suits one’s interest. They are religion and ethnicity. Thus in speaking contemptuously of a political candidate, such currency is inextricably traded. It, therefore, suits his traducers to use religious sentiments.
Undoubtedly, Prof Osinbajo is a Christian and a member of the RCCG
Also, an answer must be given to how his membership of the RCCG has affected his duties and responsibilities. There is indeed no way in which his membership has hindered the performance of his duties and responsibilities as the Vice-President or the Acting President. It is also pertinent to state that the VP has more Muslim staff members than Christians. Recently, his staff came out with what I’ll call headcounts, and none has been able to fault claims.
One way I evaluate a man is by taking into cognisance his pedigree
Suppose obeisance is paid to the track record or background of the Vice-President, in that case, it is factual that he has worked with notable personalities such as His Excellency Prince Bolaji Ajibola, former Attorney General of the Federation and President of the World Court; His Excellency Senator Ahmed Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State and His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari. More interestingly, all the personalities mentioned are devout Muslims. They all have great testimonies of good character for the VP. He is a trusted ally to them. They bear testimony of his competence, trust, and definition of duties irrespective of their faith.
Some persons are of the view that some of his actions as Vice-President are haunting him. What do you say to this?
The most endangered position for a person to find himself in the contraption called Nigeria is to be appointed a “deputy” (deputy chairman, deputy governor, or deputy (Vice) president). This is because the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended casts restraints and limitations on the roles and designation of a “Deputy/Vice.”
In my words, they are “endangered species.” In contrast, in a layman’s words, they are tantamount or may be likened to a “spare tyre,” whose relevance can only be appreciated when the mainstay (Head) is no more or not around. An adage says two captains cannot be in a ship. Unlike in other jurisdictions, deputies have an endangered role in Nigeria.
Notwithstanding the restraints, notable was the point in time when the VP acted in the capacity of the Acting President. Nigeria indeed experienced a more glamorous atmosphere, dollar from $520 got reduced to $430. Nigeria got introduced to the issuance of executive directives called executive orders which assisted tremendously in moving the country forward. As an acting president, Prof. Osinbajo signed seven bills into laudable laws within such a short period.
He brought sanity back to the system. He had zero tolerance for impunity and abuse of office. When a security head of an agency crossed the line and tried to subvert and subjugate the operations of the people’s representatives, that’s the National Assembly; he gave the officer a boot to everyone’s admiration. In fact, he rose to the occasion to save our democracy.
I can’t say he’s being haunted for taking such lofty and bold steps. I was abroad when all these happened, and Nigerians home and abroad were proud of him.
During the visit to Jigawa, there were reports that an Emir and the state Governor shunned him?
Such conjectures and sayings are undoubtedly fallacious, mendacious, and untrue as I was in Jigawa State.
The governor only raised an issue of communication and engagement out of the state capital, of which an apology was rendered accordingly. The Secretary to the Government, a super senior official of the state, was on the ground to welcome the Vice-President. He did this from the airport and also extended to other engagements of the VP within the state.
The reception and kind gesture of the Jigawa State Government lay credence to the truth. The Vice President was accepted as an aspirant, and highest regards and utmost compliments were duly accorded to him; the governor’s absence does not in any way suffice as shunning.
Some are saying the cabal does not trust Osinbajo?
According to George Elliot, “Our deeds determine us just as we determine our deeds. “
The confidence and trust between the Vice President and the cabal are reflected in the attitude of the cabal if there’s anything of such in Nigeria.
This is due largely to the fact that the Vice President has maintained his position for seven years, making him the longest experienced and serving Vice President in the history of Nigeria.
From the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 till date, the deputies of respective Nigeria, be it Governor-General, Supreme Leader, Head of State, and President, have not been as visible as that of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is usually entrusted with salient functions and matters of the state.
His Excellency Atiku Abubakar was the Vice President to President Olusegun Obasanjo. He ought to be the longest now but can only be said to be effective for about four years as we all are aware of his problem with General Obasanjo. In his second term, he was rendered ineffective, stripped of his power, and had all his aides sacked. Some were prosecuted, removed from the party, and nearly removed from office but for the Supreme Court.
Conclusively, Professor Yemi Osinbajo remains the longest, most engaged, and most experienced VP in Nigeria. This is basically because he enjoys the confidence and trust of his boss, President Muhamadu Buhari.
And to your question, if there’s a cabal in Nigeria as being touted, the president, in my understanding, remains the head of any cabal due to his office as the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria Armed Forces. He’s the most powerful Nigerian in whatever perspective it’s viewed; therefore, the president must be the head of such an entity if there’s any cabal. In contrast, the Vice President enjoys the president’s confidence, which makes him the favourite of the president.
Therefore, if the Vice President enjoys the trust and confidence of the president, it sequentially flows that the cabal, if it really exists, trusts and has confidence in Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
It is believed that the removal of the Department of State Services’ Director-General by Osinbajo when Buhari was out of the country caused a serious hatred for him by the cabal, and they have not forgiven him. What is your reaction to this belief?
Sometimes in August 2018, I think like this period during the build-up to the 2019 elections, Nigerians and the international community woke up to the unfortunate reality of some DSS operatives laying siege to the National Assembly complex preventing lawmakers and civil servants from gaining access to the building, which led to some legislators and civil society members to confront the invaders live on national TV. It’s a coup in all ramifications.
As expected, it caused an uproar. I recalled getting several enquiries on it from several journalists from Nigeria and abroad. Several embassies called for confirmation and to know the next steps to take. It was a disturbing day for Nigeria as it was crystal clear that our democracy was in danger.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo was the Acting President. He immediately took charge, activated measures to flush the operatives out of the National Assembly, and ordered the termination of the agency’s Director-General, Mallam Lawal Daura.
The unauthorised invasion of Nigeria’s legislature, which attempted to subvert people’s will, rights, and power, outraged all. It was an embarrassment to the nation, but Professor Osinbajo quickly went to action, invited some of the security chiefs concerned for a briefing, and did what was expected of a leader.
He did the needful, and he saved our democracy from jackboot. When the President returned, the booted security chief was not reinstated, meaning the President affirmed the decision.
Although many have expressed concerns about the political consequences of the sacking of Daura, for me as Kayode Ajulo, I saw Prof Osinbajo’s decision as a reaffirmation of the need for the rule of law to always prevail over arbitrariness in democracies. This can be seen from the impacts of the huge sighs of relief from the international community and civil society at Nigeria’s commitments to the rule of law and human rights under the Buhari administration.
I refused to believe that the cabal members were offended by the decision. It is a mere conjecture of some interests to continue disparaging the vice president who saved our democracy.